Maryland highway officials got an earful of complaints last night from Prince George's and Anne Arundel County residents who oppose the state's plan to build a $1.7 billion eastern bypass outside the Capital Beltway.

With Maryland highway chief Hal Kassoff listening in the audience, last night's hearing at Bowie High School brought out a mixture of people on both sides of the bypass issue. About 125 people attended.

"What surprised me was the balance we heard," Kassoff said.

Supporters were dominated by business interests, making them an easy target for local elected officials, citizen organizations and environmentalists worried about more development near the Chesapeake Bay.

At times the hearing became testy, as the two sides traded shots. After Capital Centre President Jerry Sachs reminded the audience that the bypass would be the only way to remove tractor-trailer trucks from the Capital Beltway, citizen activist Carmen Anderson of Prince George's said, to applause: "Thanks to Mr. Sachs for wanting trucks to kill us on Route 301."

The eastern bypass, which Maryland wants so that through traffic on Interstate 95 can avoid the Beltway, generally would run from as far south as Caroline County in Virginia, across the Potomac River to the intersection of Routes 50 and 301 near Bowie. It would range from 57 to 93 miles, with up to 28 interchanges.

The western bypass, advocated by Virginia officials as another option for through traffic from the South to the Midwest, generally would follow a route from I-95 as far south as Stafford County, through Prince William and Loudoun counties and across the Potomac to I-70 in Maryland. It would range from 65 to 82 miles, with up to 20 interchanges.

Each route would cost up to $1.7 billion in today's dollars, with the money coming from tolls and federal and state aid.

Even though the eastern route would end at Routes 50 and 301, much of the traffic would continue its bypass of Washington on existing roads such as Routes 3 and 50/301 and Interstate 97.

That worries people in Bowie, Crofton and Anne Arundel County, who shudder at the prospect of hundreds of trucks, including those carrying hazardous materials, rumbling through their communities.

"It's not an eastern bypass. It's a truck bypass through your community," Robert Duckworth, president of the Crofton Civic Association, said last night.

Anne Arundel's elected officials are unanimously against the eastern bypass. Bowie's leaders support the eastern bypass, providing the western leg also is built so the unwanted truck traffic is shared in the region.

Prince George's officials generally back the bypass, although County Executive Parris Glendening has said he would oppose Maryland's plan if officials continue to propose that the bypass end at Routes 50 and 301. "If it is to be a true bypass, the selected alternative simply cannot terminate at {301} and 50. Rather, some provision must be made . . . for the continuance of traffic all the way to Baltimore," Glendening has said.

Many of the bypass backers reminded the audience last night that the Washington region would continue to grow, regardless of whether the highways are built.

"If we don't prepare for that growth, we're going to suffer," said William "Gene" Baumgaertner of the Prince George's Chamber of Commerce.

But bypass critics said brakes should be applied to growth because it will harm the region's way of life, especially the Chesapeake Bay.

"Maryland is an endangered species," said state Del. Marsha Perry (D-Crofton).

Another frequent criticism of the bypasses, especially in Anne Arundel and Prince George's, is that state transportation planners have put too much emphasis on highway solutions instead of transit for moving people through the region.

"We're putting money into this road that should be going into other forms of transit," said Mary Forsht-Tucker of Clinton.

Sachs, representing a pro-bypass business coalition, countered that additional transit is a part of the region's traffic problems.

"Even if more transit systems are put on line, as is assumed in the {bypass proposal}, the bypasses are still clearly needed. The bypasses serve a need that cannot really be met by transit."

Last night's hearing was the third of 11 the two states are holding through June 14. After the hearings, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder are expected to make a decision on the bypasses late this year or early in 1991.